Smartphones for classroom engagement, assessment, and online study? What are your thoughts?

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Having taught for more than 20 years, I recall faculty meetings and department policies that grappled with the issue of laptops in the classroom – facing a room of over 200 students with many faces looking at their screens rather than at me or my visuals – and little idea of what they were looking at or whether they were listening at all.   While there remains a sprinkling of open laptops in face-to-face classes, the not so new challenge is the always handy and not quite so visible Smartphone.   A challenge that can be turned into a teaching and learning asset both in and outside of a face-to-face class.  

We’re all familiar with the application and integration of mobile phones as student polling and assessment devices – like Macmillan’s adaptable and effective iClicker.   I’ve used a variety of polling approaches over the years to guide lectures, assess learning, and enhance engagement.  I also expose students to applicable online websites or resources as part of my classes, but rather than just showing them, I have students look things up or visit websites on their phones with a particular goal or question in mind - often followed by a polling question that reflects if they actually engaged with the material.   I’ve opened some classes by asking students to “google” a specific topic and then to look at relevant news stories.   For example, to open a class on obesity its interesting what’s being reported about prevalence, causes, implications, and interventions.   I have students share headlines and then often ask them if the news article referenced a new study.   I’ve also had students use their phones to complete certain online health risk assessments for themselves or a scenario I provide.   This provides context and can generate discussion.  These are only a few ideas!   Please share your approaches and thoughts with your colleagues by clicking on “Reply” below.  

Also, I found this recent article from Faculty Focus of interest with tips on how you might suggest students use their Smartphones as an effective study tool outside of class time.  For example, to encourage students to take advantage of tiny time slots to read course content throughout the week allowing more time to digest the information.  A good read!   Best!   Jamie

About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.